The “Spirit of Inclusion” at Catholic schools

Make of this what you will. But this strikes me as something new on Catholic campuses: explicit and prominently publicized acceptance—or “inclusion”—of young people who are gay.

First, this item about the University of Notre Dame popped up:

The University of Notre Dame, an icon of American Catholicism, increasingly has been going against that current when it comes to gay athletes. On Thursday (May 8), the school launched a new campaign to reinforce a message of inclusion wrapped in the wider message of the Catholic faith.

“Because the university values LGBTQ students in the Notre Dame community, as indeed it values all of its students, the university is committed to fostering an environment of welcome and mutual respect that is grounded in its Catholic mission,” Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick, says in a voice-over for the two-minute video that kicks off the campaign.

The video features athletes from every men’s and women’s team on campus, including tennis player Matt Dooley and rower Olivia Kacsits, both seniors who have publicly identified as gay and both of whom pushed for the video and campaign.

“Our goal was to increase visibility of the supportive atmosphere created by the Notre Dame student community. Unfortunately, many Notre Dame observers have a different perception of the on-campus atmosphere,” Kacsits said in a statement on Thursday. “Something I believe to be central to Notre Dame’s philosophy is that we believe in fostering and practicing unconditional, Christ-like love.”

You can see the video below.

Then, hot on the heels of that news, I got an email this morning from a reader in Ohio, who noticed the following on a local Catholic high school website (a school, incidentally, also named Notre Dame):

Dear Parents and Guardians,

Human self-understanding changes with time, and so also human consciousness deepens.

Pope Francis

As a school we are always reviewing and discerning best practices in the tradition of our Catholic faith and our 100-year tradition of ministering to young women. In the spirit of Pope Francis’ statement above, the Notre Dame Academy Board and Administration has recently reviewed and articulated more clearly something we as a school have been doing for decades – fostering an atmosphere of support and inclusion for all our young women.

After reviewing Pope Francis’ writings, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and the work of Catholic universities and high schools around the country, a “Spirit of Inclusion” statement was developed that reflects our past behavior and future intent:

Impelled by Jesus Christ and His mission and our rich educational heritage, we, the Board, Administration, Faculty, and Staff of Notre Dame Academy are committed to maintaining a healthy and inclusive Catholic environment of educational excellence for the transformation of individuals and society.

We strive to form women who are skilled and committed to journey together in hope as witnesses and catalysts for the responsible care of all God’s creation and for justice and peace, especially for those on the margins of society, (From The Educational Vision of the Sisters of Notre Dame).

The intent of this statement is to affirm our commitment as a Catholic school to inclusivity. We welcome all into this Gospel community including, but not limited to, people of all colors, religions, ethnicities, sexual orientations, economic classes, and nationalities. We receive and love all here as God’s children. Accordingly, we will not tolerate discrimination of any kind. We remain vigilant to create an environment of mutual respect, of welcoming hospitality and of genuine warmth in which none is a stranger and in which all may flourish according to God’s plan.

This Spirit of Inclusion Statement will be in included in our fall student planner and be part of the guidelines we use to serve your daughters.

Kim Grilliot

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